The Master of Frankfurt is the name traditionally given to an anonymous artist responsible for two altarpieces that were made for patrons in Frankfurt am Main, in Germany. However, the artist actually worked in Antwerp. In the early 16th century, when the Master of Frankfurt’s shop was active, Antwerp was becoming one of Europe’s greatest economic and artistic centers. This rapid growth of wealth and commerce changed the ways that paintings were made and sold. For example, some workshops, such as that of the Master of Frankfurt, made paintings to be sold on the open market, rather than having been commissioned by a specific donor.
This altarpiece has evidence of this change in the market: the shields of the exterior wings have been left blank, perhaps so the owner could have his or her own coat of arms painted in. There are many “quotations” from famous 15th-century workshops. The pattern on the gold brocade worn by Mary Magdalene (the woman kneeling at the right of the central panel) is identical, in size and in form, to brocades on many other paintings from the shop of the Master of Frankfurt and was probably made with the help of a stencil, which would have streamlined production.